Oct 21, 2016

Why Do Gay Men Like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"?

"Like" is too weak a term.  To gay men of a certain age, it is the movie.  It is more than a movie, it is salvation.

They don't attend the audience-participation midnight showings, with young oddballs throwing toast and rice, yelling nasty, often homophobic lines at the screen, and cheering when the "Frank the Fag" is killed.  They watch on VHS, alone, a private communion.

 Gay empowerment was not at all what Richard O'Brien intended when he wrote the script of a science fiction-horror musical comedy pastiche.  And it requires you to overlook or excuse quite a lot:



Frank N Furter is a villain!  He keeps Brad and Janet prisoner, turns them to stone with his Medusa ray, brutally beats his servants, kills Eddie and then serves him to his guests for dinner!  That's not just villainous, it's psycho-killer!

And what do you make of the song "Superhero", which Brad and Janet sing in the wreckage of Frank's lab at the end of the movie:

Superheroes come to feast, to taste the flesh not yet deceased
And all I know, is still the beast is feeding.

Not exactly uplifting, is it?


There's no one gay in the film.  The male characters are all bisexual, capable of sexual relations with men and women both, and the female characters are all heterosexual.

The main sexual awakening isn't same-sex, it's Rocky and Janet.



The "don't dream it, be it" scene in the pool isn't gay, it's a pansexual orgy, while Frank is floating on a life preserver from the Titanic.

That pink triangle on Frank's lab coat was not intended to be a gay symbol.  It just happened to be on the coat they bought for a prop.

So how did gay men of a certain age get around all that?

1. They didn't notice Frank's villainy.  All gay and bi men in the mass media of the era were villains, usually psycho killers.  It was business as usual.  They  simply didn't notice.

Instead, they remembered the scenes where Frank becomes a sympathetic character, longing for home:

I see blue skies through the tears in my eyes,
When I realize, I'm going home.

Telling about his first drag dreams:

Whatever happened to Fay Wray, that exquisite, satin-draped frame?
As it clung to her thigh, how I started to cry, 'cause I wanted to be dressed just the same.

2. There was same-sex desire!  Even the gay men in the mass media of the era never expressed same-sex desire.  Gay meant feminine and not interested in women, period.  You never saw a gay man with a boyfriend except Jodie in Soap, who was planning a sex change to become a woman for him.

Then Frank belts out:

A deltoid, and a tricep, a hot groin and a bicep
Makes me shake, makes me want to take Charles Atlas by the....hand.

3. There were penises!

You rarely saw men shirtless in movies of the 1970s, and costumers tried their best to remove all hints of a bulge.  But Rocky and Brad are both half-naked most of the time, in extremely bulgeworthy outfits.  Male beauty was celebrated, not erased.

4. There was transformation.

I feel released
Bad times deceased
My confidence has increased
Reality is here

After years and decades of being told, over and over, that he, like every man who had ever lived and who ever would live, longed for women and shuned the touch of men, that same-sex desire did not and could not exist, he heard Frank sing:

Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.  Don't dream it, be it.

He left the theater with tears streaming down his face, transformed, literally saved.

I was lost, but now I'm found.  Was blind, but now I see